Where Things Stand: New Hampshire GOP Tries To Make Teacher Bounty-Hunting Law Even More Dystopian

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LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE - AUGUST 02: New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu speaks on stage prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on August 02, 2020 in Loudon, New Hamps... LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE - AUGUST 02: New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu speaks on stage prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on August 02, 2020 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) MORE LESS

Over the summer, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed a GOP-backed bill into law that mirrors many anti-Critical Race Theory bills that have passed in the last year or are still being considered in Republican states around the U.S. The text of the law, House Bill 2, the “Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education,” is mild in comparison to other red states’ attempts at silencing discussions of issues like systemic racism and modern racial tensions in public schools.

The New Hampshire law “prohibits the dissemination of certain divisive concepts related to sex and race in state contracts, grants, and training programs.” It describes “divisive concepts” as a number of different things, including ideas like the United States being “fundamentally racist or sexist” or rhetoric that suggests “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” 

It’s not good on its face. But if you recall — I wrote about this development back in November — the new law came with another one of those problematic (and troll-vulnerable) tip-lines for parents to report to the state government instances in which they think teachers were breaking the law. A conservative moms group in the state seized on the new operation in November, offering a $500 bounty to the first person to lodge a successful complaint against an educator. We’ve seen this before. We live in the Wild West, etc.

But as teacher union groups sue over the law and Democratic lawmakers in the state legislature attempt to weaken the law with new bill proposals this session, Republicans in the state are digging their heels in, hell bent on making the current law even more dystopian than it already is.

Case in point: Republicans recently introduced a proposed bill, HB 1255, which is titled “An Act Relative to Teachers’ Loyalty.” It’s really disturbing.

The proposed legislation not only bars public educators from teaching any type of “negative account or representation of the founding and history of the U.S.” — like the fact that America was “founded on racism,” which it mentions specifically — but it also claims the bill will work as some sort of silencing mechanism for teachers, ensuring educators’ “loyalty” to the anti-Critical Race Theory cause. According to the New Hampshire Business Review, the proposed bill — sponsored by state Republican Rep. Alicia Lekas and a handful of other Republicans — piggy-backs off of a Cold War-era law that bans teachers from discussing anything with a pro-communism, socialist or Marxist tilt in classrooms. The “loyalty” bill would update that law to include the rejection of “any other doctrine or theory which includes the overthrow by force of the government of the U.S.” … As if Jan. 6 never happened.

There’s another Republican-backed bill in the works this session as well. Called HB 1313, the GOP bill aims to expand the OG “discrimination” law, aka anti-CRT law, to apply to public schools outside of K-12 to public colleges and universities in the state.

Sununu has argued that the so-called “Freedom from Discrimination Law” in its current form, doesn’t “prevents schools from teaching any aspect of American history, such as teaching about racism, sexism or slavery,” he said in a statement last year. “It simply ensures that children will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, sexual identity or religion.”

But teachers unions and Democrats in the state are pushing back. The American Federation of Teachers’ New Hampshire filed a lawsuit against the state law in December, arguing it is not only unconstitutional, but that it is written largely with a smoke and mirrors veil to intimidate teachers and force educators to “self-censor their own free speech to avoid … severe and draconian threats.” 

And at least four Democratic-backed proposals seeking to repeal the law have been introduced in recent months.

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